"Praise be to Allah
who decreed death upon Abu Bakr, who was more beloved to me than
Umar. Praise be to Allah who gave authority to Umar, who was less
beloved to me than Abu Bakr, and compelled me to love him."
[Khalid ibn al-Walid, upon breaking the news of Abu Bakr's
death to his army.]
"You have done deeds
which no-one has done, but people do nothing, for Allah is the Doer."
[Arabian poet, quoted by Umar to Khalid]1
In Madinah, as the old
Caliph lay dying, the sent for writing materials and wrote an order:
After him Umar would be the Caliph and the Believers would swear
allegiance to him. This was the last order of Abu Bakr.
On August 22, 634 (22nd Jamadi-ul-Akhir,
13 Hijri), Abu Bakr died and Umar became Caliph. On the same day
the new Caliph issued his first order: Khalid was dismissed from
the command of the Muslim army in Syria! He wrote to Abu Ubaidah
In the name of Allah the Beneficent,
I urge upon you the fear of Allah who
lives eternally while everything else perishes; who has guided us
away from wrongdoing and taken us out of darkness into light.
I appoint you commander of the army of
Khalid bin Al Waleed. So take charge as is your duty.
Send not the Muslims to their destruction
for the sake of plunder; and place not the Muslims in a camp without
reconnoitring it and knowing what is there.
Send not expeditions except in properly
organised units. And beware of taking any steps which may lead to
the annihilation of the Muslims.
Allah has tried me with you and tried
you with me. Guard against the temptations of this world lest they
destroy you as they have destroyed others before you; and you have
seen how they felt. 2
The letter was given to a messenger with
instructions to proceed to Syria and hand it personally to Abu Ubaidah.
The next day Umar led the congregational
prayer in the mosque of the Prophet. When the prayer was over, he
addressed the congregation-the first public address of his caliphate.
He started by praising Allah and invoking His blessings on the Prophet;
then he continued: "Lo! The Arab is like a camel which follows
its master and waits for him wherever it is made to sit. And by
the Lord of the Kabah, I shall carry you on the right path."
In the rest of his sermon he emphasised
various virtues and duties enjoined upon Muslims, and pledged to
do his best to further the interests of Islam. Coming to the end
of his sermon, he informed the congregation that he had removed
Khalid from the command of the army in Syria and appointed Abu Ubaidah
in his place.
This announcement was received by the Muslims
in hushed silence. Everyone knew that in the heart of Umar there
was little love for Khalid, but none had expected Umar to act so
harshly against the Sword of Allah, and in such haste, especially
after the great victories which Khalid had won for Islam during
the last three years. However, Umar was a much feared, albeit respected
man, and few would dare to cross him. Moreover, as Caliph he had
the authority to appoint and dismiss commanders as he chose, and
his decision had to be accepted and obeyed. All remained silent,
with a silence more eloquent than words.
1. Ibn Kathir,
Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, Dar Abi Hayyan, Cairo, 1st ed. 1416/1996,
Vol. 7 P. 19.
2. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 622.
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